- 54 hit by bullets, 38 receive pellet injuries
- Thousands of people attend funeral prayers of slain militants
At least twelve militants, three troopers and four civilians were killed in separate gunfights between militants and forces in South Kashmir on Sunday, triggering clashes in the area.
Sources said joint cordon and search operations (CASO) were launched at Dragad and Kachdoora villages in Shopian and Peth Dailgam in Anantnag district of south Kashmir.
They said army, police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) launched CASO at Dragad at around 10 pm following specific input about the presence of militants in a residential house.
“While zeroing in on a particular house, the hiding militants fired upon forces, triggering a gunfight during which they were killed,” they said.
Director General of Police, Shesh Paul Vaid, said that eight local militants were killed at Draged, Shopian and Dailgam, Anantnag. “Seven local militants were killed at Draged while one militant was killed at Peth Dailgam where another militant was caught alive,” Vaid told reporters in a joint press conference with General officer commanding of 15 corps, Lieutenant General AK Bhatt at army’s Victor Force headquarters at Awantipora.
The slain militants were identified as Adil Thoker of Humhona, Zainpora, HM, Rayees Ahmad Thoker of Padderpora Shopian, HM, Yawar Ahmad Yatoo of Safa Nagri Zainpora, Zubair Ahmad Turray of Bonbazar Shopian HM, Ishfaq Ahmad Malik of Pinjoora Shopian–militants associated with Hizbul Mujahideen and Nazim Dar of Urpora Nagbal, Shopian, was associated with Lashkar-e-Toiba.
“Ishfaq Malik and Rayees Thoker were involved in killing of an army officer Umar Fayaz in May last year,’ said AK Bhatt adding, “We have avenged his death.”
Police spokesperson said the group apparently had joined HM in the summer of 2017 and were involved in series of cases of attacks on civilians and forces.
A civilian, Mushtaq Ahmad Thoker of Dragad was killed in crossfire during the gunfight, police said.
At Peth Dialgam in Anantnag forces launched CASO after receiving specific input regarding the presence of militants in the area.
Police said as the search started and the location of militants was zeroed in on, the forces made repeated requests on loudspeaker asking them to surrender in line with the special operation procedure.
DGP said that efforts were made by Superintendent of Police Anantnag to make the militant Rouf Khanday lay down arms but he didn’t heed the call. .
“SP Anantnag called the family members of the militant. The family had talk with the him for about 30 minutes to convince him to leave the path of violence and come back. But, unfortunately, he didn’t give heed to the family besides SP used his skills to get him over. Instead, the militant fired upon forces, who had no option but to retaliate and he was killed,” Vaid said.
DGP, without revealing the identity of arrested militant, said “he was caught without any harm.”
“I don’t think in any part of the world that police, army and CRPF do operations in this manner. The operations are done in a humane manner here,” he said.
Rouf, who was associated with LeT outfit, had gone missing early this year and his gun-wielding photograph had come on social media in last week of March, police said.
At Kachidoora village of Shopian, sources said, forces launched CASO at around 10 pm on Saturday last night following a specific input about the presence of militants in the area.
Sources said forces established contact with militants around 3; am on Sunday after they fired upon forces who retaliated with heavy fire, triggering a fierce gunfight with continued till late evening.
Police said, four militants were killed in Kachdoora gun battle and their bodies were recovered from gunfight site. The two slain militants were identified as Ishfaq Thoker and Atimaad of Hamshipora while the identity of remaining two militants was being ascertained, said superintendent of Police Shopian, AS Dinker.
SP Shopian said police was trying to confirm whether fifth militant was killed in the gunfight.
“There are reports that body of fifth militant was recovered by locals. However, we are verifying the reports,” he said.
Earlier, state police chief said there was information about the presence of four to five militants in the area.
Sources said the militants had assembled at these places to hold meetings about their plan to carry out activities in future.
Three army troopers were also killed in Kachdoora gunfight and several forces personnel were injured in both gunfights including one at Kachdoora, police said.
The deceased troopers were identified as Sepoy Hetram of Sonigasar Godard, Bikaner in Rajasthan, Gunner Nilesh Singh of Nagri, Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh and Gunner Arvinder Kumar of Sariana, Hoshairpur in Punjab.
In the Kachdoora gunfight, three civilians were also killed. The slain civilians were identified as Zubair Ahmad Bhat of Gopalpora, Mehraj din Bhat of Kachidoora and Mohammad Iqbal Bhat of Shopian.
Mehraj was declared dead at district hospital Pulwama and Iqbal was declared dead on arrival at SKIMS, Soura in Srinagar.
Zubair has left behind aged parents, two sisters and a handicapped brother, Sameer Ahmad Bhat. He had left his home the early morning after hearing about the gunfight.
DGP said 25 civilians sustained pellet injuries and six people were injured by bullets but were stable.
“They are being treated in the hospitals, I hope they all survive,” Vaid said.
The DGP termed the killing of militants and civilians as “painful” and asked parents of militants to appeal their wards to give up arms.
“It is painful for all of us to see loss of young lives. Again, I appeal to the parents of youth, who have taken the wrong path that they should convince their sons to leave the path of violence and come home,” said Vaid who was also flanked by IGP Kashmir Swayam Prakash Pani and IG CRPF, Zulfikar Hassan and GOC Victor Force in the press conference.
GoC- 15 corps appealed people not to get carried away by Pakistan and forces will continue anti-militancy operations in Kashmir.
“My appeal to the young people of Kashmir would be not to be carried away by Pak or their proxies and believe in the path of violence. Because against anybody who will use weapon, we will carry out operations as we have carried out today,” AK Bhat said.
This is one of the biggest anti-militancy operations carried by forces in a single day in recent times.
Meanwhile, as soon the news broke about the twin gunfight, people thronged the streets to break the restrictions and marched towards the gunfights sites in a bid to help militants escape.
Witnesses said youths pelted stones on forces while marching towards gunfights.
They said that in retaliation forces fired numerous tear gas shells and pellets to disperse the heavy crowd.
IG CRPF, Zulfikar Hassan said that there was unprecedented law and order situation in Shopian.
“There was a design to help the militants. Lot of people went there. What we would like to make clear is that our operations against militants will not stop. Some people under the influence of anti-nationals try to disturb the operation,” he said.
Hassan said forces will handle the crowd with restraint while not shy away from taking strict action.
“I will request people to stay away from encounter sites—where militants fire from all directions –as anybody can get killed or hurt which has happened today,” he said.
IG CRPF said that there was a rise in the trend of people flocking to the encounter sites.
“We see a trend in the recent past of stone pelting and law and order problems increasing at encounter sites especially in Shopian,” he said and appealed people to desist from coming to gunfight sites.
Locals said soon after the clashes broke out, forces sealed Pulwama-Shopian road while there was a curfew-like situation in Shopian. Besides all shops and business establishments were closed in Pulwama and Shopian.
Reports said thousands of people participated in the funeral prayers of slain militants at their respective places amid massive pro-freedom sloganeering.
Locals said nearly ten thousand people attended funeral prayers of Zubair Turray at Eidgah in main town Shopian. People offered multiple funerals for militants while chanting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.
Meanwhile, mobile internet services were also suspended to contain spreading of rumors as a measure to maintain law and order.
“The mobile internet services were initially suspended in three districts. Later, the services were suspended in two more districts,” said IGP Pani. He appealed people to “cooperate with police.”
Meahwile, about 200 people sustained injuries in forces action in south Kashmir after killing of 12 militants and four civilians on Sunday.
The police and CRPF men fired tear gas, pellets and bullets to disperse the protestors at many places in south Kashmir.
According to medicos, over 200 people injured in the forces action were referred to different hospitals in south Kashmir.
At least 23 injured were brought to District Hospital Kulgam. Of them, 16 had bullet injuries while seven had sustained pellets. 11 people with bullet injuries and another with critical pellet injuries were referred to Srinagar hospitals for specialised treatment.
At Public Health Centre Harmain of Shopian district, 16 injured were brought. Four of them with firearm injury and another with pellet injury were referred to Srinagar hospitals.
District Hospital Shopian received 150 injured. 25 among them had pellet injuries and 30 were hit by bullets and all of them were referred to Srinagar hospitals. Of the 25 hit by pellets, 22 had sustained injuries in eyes.
Many injured were brought to Zainapora hospital in Shopian. Two injured, who had sustained bullet Injuries, were referred to Srinagar.
During Zubair Turray’s funeral at Shopian main town inside Eid Gah, forces fired tear gas shells and bullets to disperse mourners. At least 15 people sustained injuries due to the barbed wire fencing. Forces also damaged several bikes in the area.
At Pulwama hospital, three pellet injured were received and one was brought dead. The forces indulged in intense firing by entering into the premises of the hospital, forcing doctors and medical staff to flee from the rear side of the hospital.
Five injured were brought from Shopian to District Hospital Anantnag. Of the five, two had pellet wounds and two were hit by bullets.